From adding a pop of colour to objects around the home to keeping the kids entertained during the holidays, paint markers are the versatile art supplies you need to take your art and craft skills to the next level. Paint markers – also called paint pens – are pen-shaped tubes filled with water-based acrylic ink. 

They are convenient to use for quick craft projects, as you won’t need to get out (and clean up) regular paint tubes, tubs and brushes. Not only that, they dry to a permanent finish with fade-resistant ink and they come in a huge variety of hues, including pastel, neon and metallic shades, as well as different nib thicknesses.

You can jazz up any surface with paint markers, from paper, glass, fabric and rocks to wood, ceramics and metal. To help inspire your next craft project, Sydney-based illustrator, artist and muralist Lydia ‘Squid’ Morgan shows us three projects to try your hand at with paint markers.

Hot Tip: “Before you start painting, shake [the marker] and press down on the nib about 10 or 15 times to get the paint to start flowing,” says Lydia. “Test the pen out on a scrap piece of paper, watching out for any paint pooling. I would recommend testing on the material that you're painting on first as well, because the effect is quite different between different materials.” 

What To Try: 

SEE ALSO: How to Create Wall Murals for a Kid’s Bedroom

Use Acrylic Paint Markers to Decorate Terracotta Pots

Decorate terracotta pots with acrylic paint pens as the base for DIY gifts.

Plants are a fantastic way to add colour and greenery to your home or office… and even more so if the pot they live in is cute and colourful. Arm yourself with a set of paint markers and some mini terracotta pots, then let your imagination run wild. Paint markers are fairly opaque, so there’s no need to prep your pots with a base coat beforehand. 

To prepare the surface, “wash and thoroughly dry the pots to remove any dustiness,” says Lydia. As for colour choices, she advises sticking to just a few colours but follow whatever your creative instincts tell you! “In my opinion, I would tend to go for a limited colour scheme, especially on such a small space, so these pots have three colours.”

Lydia also suggests sketching your design onto the pot in pencil first. “Because of [the pots’] rounded shape, it can be hard to ‘wing it’ without it becoming distorted,” she says. “That's also why more abstract shapes work well, rather than taking an illustrative approach. By drawing on with pencil first, you can alter any mistakes. Then, when applying paint, start with big areas of colour first and then go colour by colour.” 

Paint markers can be used on a variety of surfaces to create cool craft projects.

Once your pots are painted and dry, add a succulent, cactus or herbs, then place on your balcony, windowsill, kitchen counter or bookshelf. You could even gift them to a loved one as a thoughtful homemade present. 

SEE ALSO: Family Craft Projects: Create Craft Box

Design Your Own Desk Organiser with Paint Markers

Use acrylic paint pens to personalise standard stationery items such as a desk organiser.
Design your own desk organiser with paint markers.

Give a boost to a study nook or home office by decorating a desk organiser with paint pens. Teens will love putting their own stamp on this stationery staple and injecting some personality into their things, too.

Again, it can help to lightly sketch out your design first with a pencil before adding the paint. Also, consider the direction you’re going to add the paint in to help prevent any smudging as you work. “I always go left to right, because I'm right-handed,” says Lydia. 

Doing the design work in pencil first is a good idea when using paint markers.

Don’t forget as well that, if your object has multiple sides, ensure you complete your project in stages so you don’t accidentally ruin your masterpiece. “Let things dry before flipping over to draw on the other sides,” says Lydia. “While paint markers dry quite quickly and things feel dry, I would recommend leaving [each side] an hour to dry [for best results].

Rock Painting With Paint Markers

Use acrylic paint markers to create stylish decorations from ordinary pebbles.

Painted rocks are not only fun to make, they’re easy to do with paint markers, too. Once your pretty pebbles are finished, try using them as paperweights, ornaments or as decorations inside your favourite plant pots. You might also like to leave them somewhere public for someone else to find and collect or even decorate with embellishments to create and keep them as pet rocks.

To start, you’re going to need some pebbles. Find some out in the backyard (just be careful not to disturb any animal habitats). “Try to find smooth, evenly shaped ones with as few cracks on as possible to allow even paint application, and so you don't damage the nibs,” says Lydia. “And give the rocks a wash and dry first.”

Then it’s time to start colouring with your paint markers. “Draw with a gentle touch just to make sure that no paint comes pooling out of the tip,” adds Lydia. “Then fill in using even, consistent strokes, trying not to go over the same strokes too much.” If it’s easier, you can mark up geometric patterns with a ruler and pencil before you start.

A fun family project is to use paint pens on smooth pebbles to create paperweights.

Other Ways to Use Paint Markers

The creative possibilities with paint pens are endless. “They’re great because they make painting a little bit more accessible,” says Lydia. “As most people are more confident with a pen, you can launch into using paint without necessarily being experienced with a paintbrush.”   

With that in mind, there are countless other craft projects you could use with these versatile art supplies. Why not doodle a series of personalised, funny messages on a set of coasters and gift them to a family member, or decorate your own wooden photo frame? You could even paint bunting in time for your next celebration, or personalise a phone or computer case.

Hot Tip: Remember that painted surfaces on items such as plates and mugs may not be food safe, so these items are best kept for decorative purposes only. 

What To Try: 

SEE ALSO: Family Craft Projects: Personalised Gift Tags